Mary of Camelot.

27 Mar

Mary is an older woman of indiscriminate age who parks herself in the lobby daily for hours at a time out of boredom or loneliness while providing a running commentary on the lives of those of us who live in Camelot. She is short and plump with yellowed white hair and beefy forearms. I suspect she has always looked anywhere between fifty-five and seventy, even as a teenager. Her voice is legendary, and I’ve developed a nodule on my vocal chord thanks to my vivid and oft-requested impersonation. It is the sound I imagine the SS Stockholm made as it slammed into the Andrea Doria, steel-on-steel, in an agonizingly slow, measured, articulated, ineffable cadence, pitched at an ear-shattering wavelength and capable of smothering the screams of anyone being tossed out of a bunk and into the deadly briny sea.

Mary is, I believe, the longest-running resident at Camelot. I believe she was standing on the corner in 1963 and they just built the building around her. I believe she claims legal occupancy rights to the sofa near the doorman.

Mary used to own a novelty shop just off Times Square in the days when Times Square was authentic and gritty and the playground of New Yorkers with adult intentions and lusts, and not some recreation of itself by the good people who brought you Mary Poppins and populated by Texans looking for an Applebees. Mary sold poo. Fake poo and plastic vomit and disappearing ink and chewing gum that turned one’s teeth black. And t-shirts and goofy sunglasses and velvet paintings and lava lamps. Her voice is most likely the product of shooing local hooligans and petty thieves away from her paltry treasures. That store is gone now, and with it went her raison d’etre. So to the throne room she has retired to hold mild court and seek attendance from those of us scurrying to our apartments before being blasted by her vocal buckshot.

Mary has some mental issues that the Miracles of Merck seem to hold in abeyance. But several years ago, she titrated down a few too many milligrams and was a weepy fixture in the lobby, never ever retiring to her chambers above anymore but spending twenty-four hours a day, inconsolable, on the couch. For those of you that don’t know, Camelot is actually part of an Evil Empire called Mallon Properties who run the kingdom with an iron fist. Seeing an opportunity to remove this benign presence from their population and raise a 1963 rent to current market values, Mallon deemed Mary a “health risk” to the environment, went through the necessary steps of litigation to have her exiled, and without her knowledge, went upstairs, packed up her things like thugs and gave her the boot. Mary didn’t even know she didn’t live here anymore until The Knights of The White Coats arrived two days later to cart her off to The Softer Walls of Bellevue.

No shy violet she, Mary regained her meds and her mind, sued the Lord of the Land, and was back in her apartment, back on the couch in the lobby within a month. I was relieved. I’ve always rooted for Mary who calls everyone else in the building by their Christian name, but just calls me “Dear” with all the affection she can muster given the wreckage of her box vox.

Mary had one more challenge to her reign recently. After an awful make-over to the decor in the public spaces of Camelot (“The lobby now looks like a funeral parlor, or an Italian bordello.” “The color on the chair railing brings to mind an infant’s diarrhea.”), someone at Mallon, or perhaps one if the beleaguered doormen who are forced to listen to Mary ad nauseum, decided to remove the furniture from the lobby. Mary had no place to sit. For a while, Mary just stood in the lobby as if her mere presence would make the sofa magically reappear under her formidable bottom. Then she took to leaning on the doorman’s counter for a week, but I think they finally told her that would not do. She was blocking their view of anyone entering the building. Or leaving it with a flat-screen TV in tow.

Some people took pity on Mary. Others were just pissed off that their waiting guests had no place to wait any longer while they held them up with one last primp at the mirror. Some people in Camelot actually used to like to sit in the lobby as well, those few moments Mary had to relieve herself or grab a bagel where her poo store used to be. So a petition went up: Bring back the sofa.

This petition was so public, and so humiliating, that anyone less than Mary would have leapt out one of the the windows on the higher floors of the building. It read like a blind item column in the Daily News. “Just because management doesn’t want one particular person sitting in the lobby all day, shouldn’t mean we all have to suffer.” “I don’t mind having someone sit in the lobby all day, and if it bothers the doormen, well, tough, that is part of their job.” “Perhaps we can get the sofa back if we ask certain people to limit the amount of time they sit in the lobby.” On and on and on. You’d have to be an imbecile or heavily medicated or one tough cookie not to take that shit personally. And I think Mary had two out of those three cookies in her jar. She’s nobody’s fool.

The couch came home to roost, as did Mary, without any loss of pride or prejudice. Mary continues to sit in my lobby. If you come to visit me, listen closely, which one can do from a third of a mile away, and you may hear of the newest best place for frozen yogurt, or what building is slated for demolition next, or who used to live in 1407 and whatever happened to that so-and-so and so on. I’m heading out now. As I hit the elevator, if I’m lucky and time it right, her voice should come into focus on the 7th Floor going down. Going down to see Mary for one brief shining moment. I hope to never not find her there.


12 Responses to “Mary of Camelot.”

  1. transparentguy March 27, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    I like how you work all the senses into your descriptions. I can hear Mary’s voice. Another great piece.

    • NC Coot March 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      Oddly, I can hear her voice right now, as well. Thank you, as ever, for reading and taking the time to comment. Truly.

  2. Dugutigui March 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    An excellent piece!
    Being nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest war you are ever going to fight. I’m glad Mary of Camelot has won these little battles that you masterfully describe, part of that war for being herself. Never stop fighting!

    • NC Coot March 27, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

      That’s a lovely reading of this, D. I think you use the word ‘Quixotic’ in one of your blogs. That what it takes to be one’s self

      • Dugutigui March 28, 2012 at 9:01 am #

        I’m glad you use that word in your blog in a positive sense, but sometimes, as in my post, quixotic is unnecessary…

      • NC Coot March 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

        Tilting at windmills is always unnecessary but usually fun.

  3. Richard Daybell March 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    God save Queen Mary and keep Camelot shining. Another excellent piece.

    • NC Coot March 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

      Thanks, Richard. I really appreciate your read.

  4. wheresmytbackandotherstories March 31, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Resonance is all over this piece. And that is what makes this a truly excellent read.

    • NC Coot March 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

      You know how to make a cranky person happy. Thank you so much.

  5. Joe Pineda April 5, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    A very heartfelt, very entertaining piece. It reminds you that there just might be characters just as interesting and magical in your life, things you take for granted that may have to leave you one day. I think that’s the best service you can do to your readers here, giving them something nice -a feeling or a laugh- to depart with.

    • NC Coot April 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

      Thank you, Joe. You continue to honor me.

      Mr. Rogers once told a wheel-chair-bound little girl, a guest on his show, “I tend to like people that aren’t that fancy.”

      I was maybe ten at the time as I watched. I remember thinking, without yet having the words to describe it, that he had just said the most profound thing I had ever heard.

      Here’s to the magic of the ordinary.

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